What qualifies a ‘picky eater’ as a picky eater? And, more importantly, how do you know if some kids are more than just picky and will require support to learn to eat a more varied diet?
If you are concerned about a picky eater in your life, read through the list below to find out if your loved one is just a Picky Eater, or if they are more likely a Problem Feeder.
1. If you were to make a list of all of the foods that your child eats, how many foods would be on that list?
Picky Eaters generally eat at least 30 different foods.
Problem Feeders have a restricted range or variety of foods, and usually eat less than 20 foods.
2. What happens when they food jag (eat the same food over and over, then suddenly stop eating that food)?
Picky Eaters will normally accept and eat that food after taking a 2 week break without eating it.
Problem Feeders will rarely ever accept that food again, even after taking a break, and this often results in a decreasing number of foods in a child’s food range.
3. What happens if you put a new food on their plate?
Picky Eaters are generally able to tolerate new foods on their plate, and can usually touch or taste a new food, even if they do so very reluctantly.
Problem Feeders cry, protest, and “fall apart” when presented with new foods. They completely refuse to do anything with the food.
4. Do they eat at least one food from most nutrition (proteins, vegetables, etc.) and texture (purees, soft foods, chewy foods, etc.) categories?
Picky Eaters eat at least one food from most food texture and nutrition groups.
Problem Feeders refuse entire categories of food textures or nutrition groups.
5. What does their plate look like at meals compared to the rest of the family’s?
Picky Eaters frequently eat different foods at a meal than the rest of the family, but usually eat with the family.
Problem Feeders almost always eat different foods at a meal than the rest of the family, and often don’t eat with the family (either eat at separate times or eat alone in a separate space).
6. How hard is it for them to learn about new foods?
Picky Eaters will add new foods to their repertoire in 20-25 steps on the Steps to Eating Hierarchy.
Problem Feeders add new foods in more than 25 steps on the Steps to Eating Hierarchy.
7. How often has the child been reported as a “picky eater” at well-child check-ups?
Picky Eaters are sometimes reported by a parent as a “picky eater” at well-child check-ups. Picky eating has been happening for less than 2 years.
Problem Feeders are persistently reported by a parent as a “picky eater” across multiple well-child check-ups. Picky eating has been happening for more than 2 years.
If you have concerns about your Picky Eater or Problem Feeder, speak with your child’s pediatrician about feeding therapy. You can even download the Feeding Questionnaire below and take it with you to share with your child’s pediatrician.